WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's wide-ranging plan to combat global warming would for the first time put limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants.
Obama on Tuesday announced plans to reduce domestic carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent between 2005 and 2020 and "put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution."
Other aspects of the plan would boost renewable energy production on federal lands, increase efficiency standards and prepare communities to deal with higher temperatures. The 12 hottest years on record all have occurred in the past 15 years.
Obama's plan would be put in place through executive order, bypassing Congress, which has stalemated over climate legislation in recent years.
Some questions and answers about the climate plan:
Q: What is Obama proposing?
A: The linchpin of his plan is a timetable to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants. Forty percent of U.S. carbon emissions, and one-third of greenhouse gases overall, come from electric power plants, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. The Obama administration already has proposed controls on new plants, but those controls have been delayed.
Under Obama's plan, the Environmental Protection Agency will issue a new proposal by late September to regulate greenhouse gases from new power plants. By next June, EPA will propose guidance for states to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. Greenhouse gases are blamed for global warming.
Both proposals are expected to be made final in 2015, with states required to submit plans to regulate greenhouse gases from existing power plants no later than June 2016.
Q: What else does he want?
A: Obama's plan also would expand development of renewable energy such as wind and solar power on public lands. The president hopes to generate enough electricity from renewable energy projects to power the equivalent of 6 million homes by 2020, effectively doubling the electric capacity federal lands now produce. He also set a goal to install 100 megawatts of energy-producing capacity at federal housing projects by the end of the decade.
Obama also announced $8 billion in federal loan guarantees to spur investment in technologies such as carbon "capture" systems that can keep carbon dioxide produced by power plants from being released into the atmosphere.
Q: What legal authority does Obama have to restrict greenhouse gas emissions by power plants?
A: A 2007 Supreme Court ruling declared that under the Clean Air Act the EPA has authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as air pollutants. After the Bush administration resisted such steps, the EPA in 2009 under Obama concluded that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare, triggering controls on automobiles and other large sources.
Until this year, the Obama administration always has said it preferred to address global warming through legislation rather than executive action. However, in his State of the Union address in February, Obama declared that if Congress would not act on global warming, he would.
Q: What is the states' role?
A: Ultimately it is up to states to develop standards for greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, but they do so under federal guidelines established under the Clean Air Act.
Q: Is legal action likely?
A: Yes, legal challenges are a near certainty. Some legal experts question whether the Clean Air Act allows the EPA to limit carbon pollution from existing plants before finalizing rules for future plants.
Roger Martella, an EPA general counsel under President George W. Bush, said Obama's proposals are "very much in uncharted legal waters. This is not a settled area of law."
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